More on the Surgery of the Heart
I’m approaching two years since open heart surgery. December 21st and only a handful of days before my 60Th birthday. As I look back over the past 2 years, I am still in awe of what the surgeons have accomplished. After all, I’m still alive.
Friends and family often ask me how I’m doing, although less and less as the months and now years roll by. Everyone assuming that I’m fine. I look good (not like George Clooney) on the outside. Weight’s in check. Skin shriveling a bit with skin spots and I believe I’m shorter than I was a few years ago. But overall, I look reasonably healthy and my spirit is intact and positive.
Yet I wonder, every time someone asks me how I’m doing now, how I’m REALLY doing. I can’t look inside and see my heart. I feel good, experience more energy than ever and take care of myself in nutrition and sleep. But are my veins and arteries really intact? Really free of the stuff that creates strokes and true heart disease? Is there blockage that will stop the free flow of blood and nutrients that keep the body moving and alive? Only God can look inside and answer those questions.
Yet this year, for whatever reason, I’m pondering more substantial questions. The kind that transcend the usual musings and at times keep you up at night. I’m wondering, deep in my spiritual heart and soul, if I’m healthy. After 2 years have passed and really 60 years of life gone by the end of December, do I really have a new heart?
At times I agonize over this question. If I died tomorrow, how would my loved ones and others reflect on my life and how do they see me as a man, a husband, father, Christian, friend and even stranger? Would they say:
- He knew God and walked and talked a transparent spiritual life?
- He loved me deeply?
- He cared for others – friends, family and those he didn’t know but hurt for at a distance?
- He tried to make the world a better place?
- He was a passionate man, full of life?
- He cared enough to pray for me, to pick me up when I stumbled and couldn’t stand on my own?
- He cared enough to confront me when I erred, while loving me in all he said?
- That he spoke with wisdom?
- That he was humble?
- That he lived by courage, not fear?
- That he loved life?
- That his burdens were more for me than for himself?
- That I want my son to be like him?
These are some of the questions I wonder about. Because I know I have a disease that transcends my physical heart. My aspirations and the love I feel for others too often hides in the crevices of stress, my own past wounds and even my laziness. I too often fail to say “I love you” and I stand behind a wall of insecurity that silences my desire to shout from rooftops about my profound belief in the beauty and spirit of those I know. My arteries contain the kind of ingredients that block light from shining through, radiant and brilliant – so often they stop the flow of sincerity, openness and unconditional love I want to give.
You see, love can hide in the clouds and you only see it when tears rain from a dark sky or some trauma that makes us honest. At those times we wonder why we stay so quiet, especially for the ones we care the most about. And even with those on the periphery of our lives that simply need a word of cheer or voice of reason.
I’m tired of being so secretive about what I value most. So right now I’m being as honest as I can. I want a new heart. Desperately, feverishly and I want others to know the real me. I want to move into a place where all I believe and feel about love and compassion and even forgiveness, compels me to reach out. To make a difference and light up the lives of those who come my way.
As I see Him on the cross, I picture myself there instead. As it should be. Not Him, dying for me. After all, I’m the one with the diseased heart. I’m the one who holds love back, who keeps silent when a friend needs me or fails to wrap my spirit and arms around those I care about so deeply.
But I get to stand at the foot of the cross and watch. I wonder about His heart. How He kept it intact and forever loving us when nailed to a tree, helpless and uncared for. But He lets me stand at the foot of his dying self. He loved me even as He took His last breath. And He reminds me that all I can be, all I can ever hope for, ultimately comes from the light of His presence in my life. Ultimately because He died for me.
As I ponder the upcoming year, and contemplate whether I’ll be alive next December, I have a singular hope. That I will live to my fullest. That I will fill each day and even each moment, with intentional love, with blood that rushes through my soul unimpeded. A vibrant, spiritual heart that never stops pumping. And that my life will scream out for those I love – for you, for my desire for you to have a rich life, to see you blossom into all of who you can become. I’d rather leave this world before the next winter fully alive than spend 40 more years only half breathing and forgetting who I’ve been made to be.
So, the amazing gift of life has been extended for me another year with the promise of so much ahead. To my amazing wife, my incredible boys, my magnificent grandchildren, my mother a saint, my beautiful daughter in law, my wacky sister, my very unique niece and nephew and their awesome kids, my generous father in law, my mother in law, a gift to our family, they have given so much in prayer and attention to me. I give them thanks beyond what they can imagine. And to each of you, my friends and companions, to all of you who have prayed and cared for me. I want to give back so much.
God has graced us not only with His presence, but with each other. And at the end of the path, I want to see all of you and find you well, moving into life as you have never imagined. That your own heart will grow in all the ways that make you unique and display your giftedness. That the scalpel of life and spirit will refine you in ways you couldn’t have imagined before. That your love will find completion with those you care for most and ones you will meet in the future.
I know one thing for sure. I need help in this journey. The surgery of the heart, my surgery, needs a constant scalpel, a shaping hand that continues to refine me and shines a light ahead. A light that blazes a trail inside my spirit and keeps me ever aware of the path in front of me.
At the end of 2013, I hope to write a story filled with growth, wisdom and a firm conviction that the road I have traveled has led me toward light, laughter and a transparency that has impacted my world, my loved ones, all of you.
Have a great year filled with deep red blood, pulsating with life for all the days God gives you. Let His hand shape your days, your thoughts and the heart He has crafted and empowered for you to live a magnificent life. For me, I will move ahead in awe of the surgeon’s hand. The surgery of my heart will continue.